The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) publishes position statements that respond to the information and advocacy needs of practitioners in the field. These position statements are used in preservice education and conference presentations as well. Statements are also used as communication tools to increase library stakeholders’ understanding of the work of school librarians and to enlist advocates who will speak up for librarians’ vital roles in educating today’s students.
In February, AASL published The School Librarian’s Role in Reading Position Statement. I served as the chair of the task force that drafted this document for the AASL Board’s approval. The position statement was the result of six months of steady work by a team of five. Our charge was to review the previous position statements that involved reading and develop one or more updated statements.
“The task force considered the language from the AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018) in developing a comprehensive position statement that supports school librarians in achieving a fully collaborative and integrated school library philosophy in which they serve as literacy leaders on their school campuses” (AASL 2020).
Aligning with the AASL National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018)
The American Association of School Librarians supports the position that “reading is the core of personal and academic competency” (AASL 2018, 11). This core belief guided the work of the task force. The 2018 standards are organized around six shared foundations (or “core values” of school librarianship): inquire, include, collaborate, curate, explore, and engage. The task force determined that framing the new position statement around these foundations was a way to reflect on our role in reading as well as organize the document.
The AASL office also provided us with a keyword search of the standards book. The task force identified keywords from the previous position statements. We reviewed the instances of these keywords in the standards in order to reflect them in this document.
Then… we negotiated.
AASL Committee and Task Force (Virtual) Work
Collaborate is one of the shared foundations in the new standards. We learn a great deal when we collaborate with librarian colleagues. Each member of our task force was/is passionate and informed on the topic of reading. Each of us had real-world experience related to the school librarian’s role in reading and young people’s literacy development. We represented all three instructional levels (elementary, middle, and high). Three of us had post-graduate learning and teaching in the area of children’s and young adult literature and/or teaching reading. We each brought our prior knowledge, research, and experiences to the task.
We used Google docs for our written communication and kept all of our drafts in a Google folder. We had monthly Zoom meetings, provided through AASL’s account and facilitated by our AASL staff liaison.
When students and educators collaborate, we learn to listen more closely. While listening is essential for effective communication, it also shows respect for our peers, our colleagues. When we collaborate, we learn to more clearly articulate our perspectives and share from our hearts as well as our heads. As we crafted the statement, there were beliefs, priorities, and practices on which we did not all initially agree. With patience, persistence, and commitment to the task, we reached consensus on the content of the final document.
School librarians have long cited challenges in collaborative work with classroom teachers and specialists. We know that many of us entered teaching and school librarianship for the autonomy we expect in our work. However, if (school) librarians are to lead, they must build effective partnerships with colleagues.
When we engage in professional collaboration with colleagues, we practice the skills we need to apply at the (school) site and district or system levels, and state and national levels as well.
I hope you will volunteer to serve on a committee or task force in your professional network and grow your collaboration skills. There is much to learn and much to be gained.
Working together—we will have a greater impact on the literacy learning of our patrons.
American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.
American Association of School Librarians. 2020. Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading. Chicago: ALA. www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/advocacy/statements/docs/AASL_Position_Statement_RoleinReading_2020-01-25.pdf
Johnhain. “Handshake Regard Cooperatie.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009183/